Photos: The Winning Bid For Downtown's Pershing Square Has Been Chosen
Plans have finally been chosen for the redesign of downtown Los Angeles' long-maligned Pershing Square. The selection of an open space-centric design led by the Paris-based Agence Ter was announced by Councilman Jose Huizar Thursday morning.
The more than 150-year-old park has been at the center of a much-hyped design competition for the past eight months. After winnowing the field down to four finalists from nearly 80 entries, the final plan was ultimately chosen by a nine-member jury with input from the public.
According to KPCC, the jury's decision was unanimous, and Agence Ter's proposal, which calls for a "radical flatness," drew the highest scores from the more than 1,300 Angelenos who chose to weigh in. Agence Ter was the only international firm to make it to the design competition's last round, which also included local starchitect Thom Mayne's firm Morphosis.
Long elevated and separated by walls, the Pershing Square of today has little relationship with the city around it, and even less with its citizens. The park's painful divorce from its surroundings began in the 1950s with the construction of Pershing Square's notorious parking garage and continued with the most recent redesign in 1994.
Agence Ter's plan prioritizes returning the park to the city streets around it. Those walls and barriers will be ripped away, directly situating the park against its neighboring streets for the first time in half a century.
"By radically flattening the lifted surface, it will reach out to the neighborhood again, establishing a real dialogue with the city," Agence Ter's founder Henri Bava said in a prepared statement Thursday.
As L.A. Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne writes, "the winning design is very much a reaction to, if not an outright apology for, the visual clutter of contemporary Pershing Square."
Shade, nature and multipurpose open spaces will also be front and center. A so-called great lawn will abut the Biltmore Hotel, visually connecting the park to one of downtown L.A.'s most beautiful historic buildings. There will also be a water feature for kids to play in and a "smart canopy" that will provide shade during the day and light up at night. The colorful lights will hopefully become a distinctive icon of the L.A. landscape.
"Because we believe that too much topography and interrupted sight lines are blocking public life" at Pershing Square, "we have created a transparent, democratic and accessible space connected to its immediate context and resonant across the entire city." Agence Ter's Henri Bava told the L.A. Times. "A radical flatness."
According to KPCC, the competition called for designs that would cost roughly $50 million to build, but the ultimate price tag isn't set in stone. The city has already set aside $1 million for the project and has another $250,000 in commitments. Huizar will reportedly announce other plans for revenue in the coming weeks.
The team's plan features—as City Lab put it—"a murderer's row of designers," including branding by Pentagram, wayfinding by Still Room, and art by Leo Villareal. Agence TER also notably partnered with Deborah Murphy of Los Angeles Walks, a pedestrian advocacy group that focuses on fostering a more livable city.
The four finalists presented their designs at the 1,000-person capacity Palace Theatre last month to packed house. Tickets to the event, which was free and open to the public, sold out, and, even from the upstairs balcony, it was clear there was a visceral excitement in the air.
Angelenos, it seems, are more than ready for a Pershing Square that is finally—once again—for the people. The redesigned park could open as soon as 2019.